How to Find Out About Your Family History

by Ruth Kongaika

Learning about your family history influences your future. At a time when family values are being threatened, it is important to form bonds between the generations. Fortunately, today you have access to several resources that can help you discover your ancestors. If you spend the time recording your family history, it will be a source of inspiration to your family members and your offspring. Your efforts will be rewarded with a feeling of identity and purpose.

Collect Information

Prepare a special box or chest to gather all family history information. All family photos; birth, marriage and death certificates; expired passports and other official documents can be placed in the box. Depending on how much information you have, you will then decide whether to make a scrapbook or to produce a hard-bound book to publish for your family members.

Use family group sheets to fill in available information about family members you are aware of, including dates and pictures. You make family group sheets for four generations, which would include you and your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Or you would include your children, yourself and your parents and grandparents, which is also four generations. To fill in missing information, call, email or write to family members. Ask for permission to make copies of their records and pictures.

Look for any journals or diaries that family members have kept. Ask your parents what they remember about their parents and grandparents and record it as they are talking. Write down any family stories that you know. Make a video or movie to share on DVD. Digitize all your records to share with family members.

Start a family newsletter or plan a family reunion. This is the best way to get more family history and information for your family group sheets. Have a workshop at the reunion where everyone shares the information they have. Go together to visit graves of ancestors.

Be on the outlook for more information about your ancestors. You can use multiple resources, including some excellent geneaology sites online, or you might have a family history center close to you. Take the opportunity to travel to a location where your ancestor is from to find additional details.

Items you will need

  • Large archival box with lid
  • Pedigree charts
  • Family group sheets
  • Family pictures
  • Family documents
  • Computer software
  • Membership in well-established genealogy site


  • Start with the generations closest to you and work your way backward. It is generally easier to find information for an ancestor or family member born in a recent period.

About the Author

Ruth Kongaika began writing professionally in 2008. She has been working as a freelance writer for various websites, specializing in health, travel and technology. Kongaika works for the School of Education at Brigham Young University's Hawaii campus, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in art.

Photo Credits